Wednesday, February 28, 2024

OTAs and OpenAI Partner to Launch ChatGPT Plugin For Travel Planning

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There seems to suddenly be a great deal of speculation about what sort of impact OpenAI’s new generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT may have on the travel industry.

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With today’s announcement that Expedia Group (which owns Hotels.com, Vrbo, Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz and more) will launch a new ChatGPT plugin to help users simplify travel planning through the OTA platform, this controversial technology has taken its next step in terms of advancing its real-world applications within the sector,

Through Expedia’s collaboration with OpenAI, the ChatGPT platform’s capabilities will expand for the first time from being able to perform standalone functions—like helping users to find suitable flights, accommodations, activities and more—to actually helping users book their trips in an integrated way.

Now, a traveler can map out their ideal trip itinerary through a virtual “conversation” with the custom-built plugin, which is powered by the whole of Expedia Group’s 70 petabytes of travel data. Once they’re happy with their selections, they’ll be transferred straight to Expedia’s site, where they can access their member rewards and discount, for booking.


ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot concept. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/Userba011d64_201)

Simultaneously, competitor site KAYAK (owned by Booking Holdings, Inc.) also announced its integration on the ChatGPT platform. Optimized to participate in next-level dialogue with users, the system will serve as a virtual travel assistant, supporting responsive, intelligent conversational interactions based on data from KAYAK’s search engines.

Searchers can simply type their queries in the same way they would ask questions of a human assistant. ChatGPT’s unique ability to understand and process natural language enables it to comprehend the user’s specific needs, even if there are multiple criteria mentioned, and scour KAYAK’s database to provide personalized recommendations.

“Overall, our integration represents a step forward in the world of travel search,” KAYAK said in today’s announcement. “By leveraging AI technology to provide more personalized and intuitive search experiences, we’re making it easier than ever for travelers to plan their dream vacations.”

In its announcement, Expedia Group wrote that the AI innovation will transform the company, “from an online travel agency to a technology platform powering travel at every step of the journey for 154M+ travelers and 50K+ partners globally.”

Expedia highlighted some game-changing aspects of its new ChatGPT plugin:

Trip planning/shopping: Expedia’s databanks can produce 1.2 quadrillion results for a hotel search, depending upon the selected date ranges, price points, room types, etc., so the generative AI feature helps narrow things down based on user input to present travelers with only the options that are most relevant to them.

Booking: Interacting with AI products eliminates unnecessary complexities to support travelers’ confidence in booking their trips. A Price Tracking tool relies on past airfare pricing trends to show a traveler when will be the best times to book specific flights.

Post-booking: Expedia’s AI Virtual Agent is always on hand to help travelers quickly solve issues when things go wrong or plans change unexpectedly. To date, the OTA has powered more than 30 million chatbot exchanges, saving eight million total hours for human customer service agents.

Fraud Prevention: The AI is able to notice when user behavior patterns deviate from the norm and flags suspicious activity, allowing Expedia to intervene before account abuse or fraud can be carried out.

Personalized Service: The traveler journey on one of Expedia’s brand sites is enhanced through this AI, which is able to instantly evaluate over 360,000 webpage permutations to ensure that users are presented with only the information most relevant to them.


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